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With a pH as high as yours, I'd be willing to bet you have harder water with good buffering capability so you're probably good to go there as long as you engage in a practice of weekly water changes to keep up the buffering ability.

The controller is definitely not a neccessity, however it does make the whole system a bit more "plug and play" and it definitely will stabilize things so you don't end up with any real swings between lights out and lights on. But it's something that can be added at any time, so if you don't want to lay out the cash for one now, put it on a wish list.
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